I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for many years. I intuitively return to the practice when I’m dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. Rewind to the beginning of this year’s PhD drama, I rummaged through our storage closet, unrolled my dusty mat and started downward-dogging. I immediately felt better. My husband felt better too 🙂 Its true what they say: Yoga is magic! Well actually, the feeling is rooted in science and backed by pretty solid evidence.
Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit and it is a popular mind-body therapy in the East and in the West. Yoga is unique because it incorporates physical activity, deep breathing and meditation. These elements together work remarkably well to accomplish harmony and helps our minds work in synchrony with the body. I could write a dissertation on the benefits of yoga but I’ll spare you! Instead, I’ve listed five benefits of yoga below. I hope you are tempted to try a form of yoga and are open to receive the physical and emotional benefits this ancient practice has to offer.
- Yoga will make you more flexible. The practice of yoga boosts the range of motion in your muscles and ligaments, while reducing your risk of injury. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture. The emphasis on stretching has been before or after exercise but yoga is stretching – with an emphasis on holding asanas or postures .
- Yoga is much more than stretching. Its benefits extends to the heart and cardiovascular system. Yoga has been found to significantly improve the risk factors for cardiovascular disease including: high plasma triglycerides (TG) and low HDL “good cholesterol”, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate waist circumference, HbA1c levels (which can indicate people with prediabetes or diabetes) and insulin resistance .
- Yoga massages all organs of the body. Yoga is perhaps the only exercise that can work on through your internal organs in thorough manner, including those that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime. Some poses in particular are twist poses. Trikonasana, or triangle pose, is an example of a twisting pose that strengthens the obliques, pelvis and internal organs. This stimulation and massage of the organs benefits us by keeping away disease and providing a forewarning of a likely onset of disease or disorder.
- Yoga offers a safe way to detox the body. Inevitably in yoga class you will hear you’re going to “rinse the spine”, “cleanse the liver” “massage your organs.” Sounds more painful than it is!Through stretching and twisting, pull and pushing yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This leads to benefits such as delayed aging, increased energy and a zest for life.
- Yoga is an excellent way to tone your muscles. Muscles which have been flaccid and weak are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess fat and flaccidity. Many asanas in yoga are essentially weight lifting with your own body weight. Don’t believe me, try holding warrior II for one minute.
These enormous physical benefits are just one of this powerful practice. It is now an open secret that the will of the mind has enabled people to achieve extraordinary physical feats, which proves beyond doubt the mind and body connection. In fact yoga = meditation, because both work together in achieving the common goal of unity of mind, body and spirit which can lead to a type of bliss that can only be felt through the practice of yoga.
Practice makes perfect. But with yoga, perfection is not possible nor is it the goal. What I’ve noticed through my daily practice is that I am healthier, and calmer under pressure.
NEXT Steps to Boost your Health & Yoga Practice
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